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Ultrasensitive sensor using N-doped graphene

A highly sensitive chemical sensor based on Raman spectroscopy and using nitrogen-doped graphene as a substrate was developed by an international team of researchers working at Penn State. In this case, doping refers to introducing nitrogen atoms into the carbon structure of graphene. This technique can detect trace amounts of molecules in a solution at very low concentrations, some 10,000 times more diluted than can be seen by the naked eye.

Raman spectroscopy is a widely adopted identification technique used in chemistry, materials science and the pharmaceutical industry to detect the unique internal vibrations of various molecules. When a laser light irradiates crystals or molecules, it scatters and shifts colors. That scattered light can be detected in the form of a Raman spectrum, which serves almost as a fingerprint for every Raman-active irradiated system.

“Basically, different colors in the visible spectrum will be associated to different energies,” said Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, chemistry and materials science at Penn State, who led the research. “Imagine each molecule has a particular light color emission, sometimes yellow, sometimes green. That color is associated with a discrete energy.”

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